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When Marcel Proust Met James Joyce After The Ballet

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This is only peripherally a ballet topic. But I've just read review of a book entitled A Night at the Majestic, by Richard Davenport-Hines. (Times Literary Supplement, reviewed by Lachlan Mackinnon).

I post it here in case you're one of those who fantasizes about dining out with the great.

In May of 1922, Sydney and Violet Schiff gave a dinner party for some 40 or so guests at the Hotel Majestic in Paris, following the premiere of Stravinsky's Renard by Ballets Russes. The main guests were Picasso, Joyce, Proust, and of course Stravinsky and Diaghilev, joined by a variety of society and artistic types, including Bronislava Nijinska.

Joyce arrived at about 11. (No word about whether he attended the performance.) "Schiff placed him next to himself, but Joyce remained speechless, his head on his hands, for the next three or four hours. Embarrassed by owning no evening dress, he had overfortified himself."

Proust arrived at about 2 or 3 in the morning, impeccably dressed. He quarreled with Stravinsky and was placed next to Joyce. At one point, Joyce started snoring.

Mackinnon continues: "This, the only meeting between Joyce and Proust, has long been a celebrated fiasco. Here we are given every account of what went wrong. Joyce was probably rude, both because of drink and because he felt that Proust was risisng where he was falling. ... The Schiffs got into a taxi with Proust, and Joyce joined them. Joyce began smoking and opened a window. 'As Proust feared fresh air, and his asthma could not stand smoke, Schiff shut the window immediately after the cigarette was jettisoned or extinguished.' The journey was brief; Proust talked continuously while Joyce looked on. Joyce showed some interest in joining the others in Proust's apartment, but Proust 'was resolute in being shot of him.' Proust and Violet went in while Sydney persuaded Joyce to use the taxi to go home. Proust would spend the last six months of his lie trying to distance himself from the Schiffs."

And a good time, no doubt, was had by all.

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For details about the 1922 Ballets Russes "Renard" (Nijinska), look here:


Lifar did it for the Diaghelev in 1929.

This Roehampton University site -- with its chronology of productions of Stravinsky ballets -- is wonderful. Here's the information on the 1947 Balanchine version for Ballet Sociey:


Lew Christenson revivied it for San Francisco Ballet in 1955, and Todd Bolender (the original Fox) for Kansas City Ballet in 2001.

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